New Health Equity Nursing Fellowship Selects Inaugural Candidate


Samuel Merritt University and Sutter Health Join Forces to Help Grow Nurse Leaders Who Will Focus on Reducing Health Disparities

Oakland, Calif., July 25, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The nation’s first candidate for a new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Fellowship aimed at developing future health equity nursing leaders was selected by Samuel Merritt University (SMU), a national leader in health science education, in collaboration with Sutter Health, an integrated, not-for-profit health care system based in Northern California.

Irene Arroyo-Romero, MSN-FNP, is the inaugural candidate for the Sutter Health & Samuel Merritt University Health Equity Nursing Fellowship. She is a first-generation Mexican American. Her experience as the medical interpreter for her Spanish-speaking family as they navigated their limited health care options inspired her journey to become a health equity leader. She was selected for the fellowship based in part on her dedication to improving her community. Arroyo-Romero works as a family nurse practitioner in a Federally Qualified Health Center where more than 80% of her patients speak only Spanish. She also spearheaded an initiative to create an afterschool program—El Corazon de la Salud—that exposes high school students to health care professions. 


“We think that Irene’s passion and her experience speak for themselves and really set the tone for the type of candidates we anticipate will make an impact through this fellowship,” says Sam Alavi-Irvine, founding director of the SMU Center for Community Engagement. “The goal here is to be an incubator for the next generation of health equity-minded nurses and nursing leaders.” 

The compensated fellowship offers a focus on equity in birth and maternal health, mental health, chronic disease outcomes, and care transitions and health care access. Arroyo-Romero and future fellows will be placed at a patient care site within Sutter’s system where they will receive mentorship as they pursue a health equity project that counts toward their DNP progress. The fellowship provides an opportunity to participate in groundbreaking research that can directly apply to clinical settings.

“Some of the starkest health equity divides exist in the areas this fellowship will explore at length,” said Kristen M.J. Azar, R.N., MSN/MPH, Ph.D.(c), FAHA, scientific director of Sutter Health’s Institute for Advancing Health Equity. “A fellowship of this kind can help support emerging health equity leaders in new ways that accelerate action and drive better health outcomes for patients nationwide.”

When she heard about the fellowship, Arroyo-Romero says she recognized the opportunity it presented for her to continue working with underserved communities and incorporate mental health into overall patient wellbeing while providing the mentorship to make changes within health care.

“I want to make sure that the Latinx community is heard. My goal is to shed some light on providing care that’s culturally competent and attuned to the Latinx community, and then also provide the resources to the Latinx community to be able to better care for their own health,” she said. “I also want to help other health care providers understand the Latinx community in a way that can be more impactful and more meaningful.”

The Sutter Health & Samuel Merritt University Health Equity Nursing Fellowship is a collaboration between Sutter’s Institute for Advancing Health Equity and Sutter’s Chief Nurse Officer Anna Kiger, DNP, DSc, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAONL, as well as SMU’s Ethnic Health Institute and the SMU College of Nursing. The DNP Health Equity fellowship team will select two fellows each year moving forward. 

“Our hope is the fellowship will draw prospective students to SMU knowing they will be rewarded for health equity work, and that it will help us diversify our student body even more,” said Alavi-Irvine. “SMU and our nursing students will be playing a leadership role in setting the national conversation around health equity.”

The fellowship begins Sept. 1.

For more information about the Sutter Health & Samuel Merritt University Health Equity Nursing Fellowship, please visit


CONTACT: Sutter Health Media Relations Sutter Health 1-800-428-7377 

Disclaimer: The above press release comes to you under an arrangement with GlobeNewswire. takes no editorial responsibility for the same.